Paks: operation, upgrades, life extensions, profit

19 November 2004

Engineers plan to generate power at unit 2 of at Hungary’s Paks plant for most of 2005. In addition, a 20-year life extension had been approved for all four of the plant’s VVER units and plans are in place for upgrades that will boost generation by 8%.

The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) has already issued a permit for generation at Paks 2 which has been online since September, the only problem being the need to refuel: on 10 April 2003 partially-spent fuel overheated in a service pool after cleaning and 30 fuel assemblies were damaged, some of them leaking. The incident rated at level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale and the damaged fuel will remain in the pool until the second half of 2005, blocking the normal refuelling path.

A new path will be created by mounting a C-30 container on top of the reactor vessel. The HAEA has granted a permit in principle for the operation and is currently working on a permit for the positioning of the container. Once a detailed operational procedure has been worked out, a third permit for the work itself will be issued.

Jozsef Ronaky, general director of the HAEA, has said that, if the refuelling procedure had been demonstrated to be safe then the authority would have no grounds to refuse a licence for generation at Paks 2 after scheduled maintenance is complete around April 2005. Paks’ chief executive officer, Istvan Kocsis, told the Hungarian parliament’s economic committee that he hopes that with unit 2 operating again, the plant will make a ‘massive’ profit.

Recovery and repacking of the damaged fuel is expected to take place during an outage in the latter part of next year.

The lifespan of Paks’ units has been extended from 30 to 50 years. While shutdowns for all units have been pushed back to the 2030s, two rounds of heavy maintenance will be required costing 29.4 billion forints ($154 million) in 2016-2020 and 39.3 billion forints ($206 million) in 2026-2030. A capacity upgrade project is also planned for the coming years which will boost the output of each unit to about 510MWe from their current 467, 468, 460 and 471MWe nameplates.

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